Some machines demand to tell their stories in their own way, and so it is the case with Memphis, a special chopper built by Laura Klock and the friends and crew of Klock Werks, a small shop located in Mitchell, SD. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.
Memphis, the machine you see here, was debuted at Michael Lichter’s Eternal Combustion Show in Sturgis this past year. Both Athena Ransom and Laura were paired up to collaborate and present machines in tandem, but circumstances of life prevented Athena from finishing her machine and showing her work. Laura and her Mountain Dew drinking team busted major butt to finish up Memphis in time for the show. Every challenge known to man but locusts, plagued this team, trying (unsuccessfully) to keep them from finishing.
Not a chopper girl in the true sense, the frame came to Laura as payment back in the day, for working in the Klock shop. As far as she was concerned, if she was going to build herself a long bike and embrace the chopper style, the least it had to be was fat. An Avalon front end from Mean Street certainly brings fat to the front of the equation and a big 300 meat out back balances the machine visually. This is a big bike, a long bike with a low seat height. It’s a new style chop in every sense, except heart – in that regard it is very ,very – ahem, excuse me - old school.
Very modern Contrast Cut wheels look great hung on this big frame and the amazing engraving by Canadian, Heather New of New Line Engraving sets off the outrageous “ got a whole lot going on” paint. Taking a good look at the engraving gives you the distinct impression that the metal on this bike has been hand forged, pounded and gouged by an old world craftsperson, and in many regards, it has. The elaborate primary cover is a great example of the engravers art.
A BAKER RSD a very modern part on a bike that references so many “old world” styling cues, works great and allows the slick rear wheel to run clean. A Goodson air cleaner gave Heather an amazing canvas to showcase her engraving handiwork whilst displaying the name of Laura’s machine.
Mid-mount controls make sense for someone who is a rider (and Laura is certainly a rider with WFB titles to her name) and so our heroine implemented a real nice clean set. A solid mount motor was Laura’s call as was the gas tanks shape. Ah yes, the tank shape, the amazing tank shape! Referencing a basketball, the spherical shape of the tanks front portion flows seamlessly and beautifully to the seat. Looking at the tank, you want to reach out and hug it; your hands just want to run over the curves of it to try and really understand how cool a shape it is.
The oil tank comes from Sucker Punch Sally’s, the seat leather and saddlebag came from Joe Mielke, shop fab guru and head mechanic. Rob Roehl at Donnie Smith’s shop helped construct the gas tank, it is a masterful piece of unbelievably distinctive metal work. Dan Cheeseman also constructed the rear fender, seat pan, motor mount, and other custom touches – all with Laura in there as hands on as possible in the rush.
The paint by TJ from TJ Design (www.custombikepaint.com) was hit and miss right up until the final coat of candy brown was shot – the colors were off the card and the painter was in uncharted territory – but in the end, it turned out brilliantly – a deep and sophisticated palette, set off by some great 70’s style taping and use of variegated gold. Not one part of this build didn’t throw up a challenge.
Floods visited Mitchell South Dakota this past Spring and in addition to making a horrible mess of their business, their ability to makes a living and pay salaries it also got in the face of those Klock-workers trying to get this (and one other bike you will meet in a future issue) done on time. This flood happened right in the middle of the build, a short time before Sturgis. Crowds coming through Mitchell on their way to Sturgis helped as best they could. It was madness. It was amazing. It was a friggin mess. Nothing went together easily, but everyone persevered.
There is so much personal heart tied up with most every part of this machine, every bit of engraving and graphic iconography has deep meaning as did Laura’s decision to take every piece a step further than is common. The names of the special kids in her life, dedicated on the trans top cover to Erika, Karlee, and Austin, are 10 books of life stories right there. The Horsepower Ranch logo engraved on the primary cover is another story I encourage you to ask Laura about when you see her. The paint and engraving are great examples of what happens when you trust the skills of the artists around you.
Making her debut at The Eternal Combustion Show in Sturgis, placed in the back of the room, Memphis (and her brother Kwiksilver, Brian’s FXR) seemed kind of shy, hanging out in the corner – acting kind of low-key, as if they were just getting used to being out in the public eye. The bikes being on platforms presented themselves a bit awkwardly, as if to say: I haven’t been on the road yet, screw being on a pedestal, I want to run. The folks that took the time to get to know Memphis at the Sturgis show were rewarded with a rich experience; this is a bike with a deeply personal story.
So at the end of the day, the bike got finished, the tins got fitted, but the machine never got fired. There wasn’t time to sort through all of the small issues and little adjustments necessary to make a machine safe and roadworthy before the Sturgis show. The Klock team was exhausted, it’d been a rush to the finish line and they’d made it… and the way Laura saw it, there would be plenty of time to get to know and ride Memphis, once their shop was put back straight. Sometimes it’s about more than the machines, it’s about the things you learn about people and the stories of their lives along the way.
In case you were wondering, the stars appearing all over the machine are to remind all that meet Memphis, to shine and Heather News’s small, hidden “LTW’s” reminds us to “Love the World”. Good messages, good energy, good people and a killer machine!
Why the name Memphis?
Laura and Brian met some 8 ago, made a good connection, dated for a bit and subsequently, as often happens when lives are complicated, they parted ways. Well, Laura came back some short time later to visit and as is often the case, there was a crowd of customers around the Klock shop and so the crowd went to dinner. Brian tired of introducing Laura as :”Laura from Wisconsin” and began introducing her as Memphis, an inside joke. Well the “stage name” stuck and folks around the shop referred to her as Memphis. In looking back, the name reminds Laura as much of a time in her life as the spirit that powers her forward.
Mitchell SD 57301
Images & Words: Stephen Berner